PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Sonic Generations mod adds most levels from console-exclusive Sonic Unleashed">Sonic Generations Unleashed mod







Yes, there's actually a bunch of Sonic games on Steam. They're easy to miss in the piles of other action games, but 2011's Sonic Generations deserves special notice for its thriving mod community. That's right, mods and Sonic is a thing, a pair as expected as hedgehogs and racing. The latest user-generated triumph is the Unleashed Project, a massive port of some of the daytime (read: good) levels from the console-only Sonic Unleashed.



The added Unleashed zones stick to the classic Sonic setup of racing blindingly fast along courses while collecting rings, and they thankfully leave behind the horrible Werehog segments and tedious medal collections. As a bonus, everything looks gorgeous on the PC thanks to high-definition textures and an "unleashed" framerate. (I'll get my coat.)



Spin-roll over to Mod DB for a lengthy FAQ on what you'll get on downloading the Unleashed Project.
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Doom has a roguelike, and it’s likely you’ll be eaten by a pinky">DoomRL







You can't escape Doom. After tearing open a portal to Hell on the Source engine, it's aiming its slavering maw at the roguelike genre with DoomRL, where you'll have to escape a dark and infested facility of demonic horror while also worrying about the looming threat of permadeath. No pressure or anything.



All the roguelike trappings show up alongside sound effects and graphical sprites lifted directly from the FPS. You'll frag beasties in quick, turn-based battles while scrounging for ammo, health, armor, and keycards. Three classes—Marine, Scout, and Technician—determine your stat spread and passive traits, and there are over 30 randomized levels and mod support for extra user-made floors.



DoomRL already has a dedicated community talking shop and contributing content over on its official website, and the latest version, 0.9.9.7, released yesterday after a little over a year in development. You'll probably want to brush up on the game's wiki as well before jumping in.
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Prison Architect alpha on Steam as part of new Early Access section">Prison Architect







Introversion's slammer-sim Prison Architect has offered a playable alpha for purchasers through its official website for some time now, even racking up a cool million from buyers eager to yell at and bludgeon teeny convicts as a power-mad warden. The various purchase tiers are now on Steam, and it makes up a part of the first set of games offering immediate access to pre-release versions through Steam's new Early Access system.



All four of Introversion's alpha packages are part of Early Access, starting from the barebones $30 standard package to the $50 "Name in the Game" bundle that names an inmate after you and lets you supply his rap sheet.



The goal of Early Access is to bring gamers further into the development process itself, a trend that could help developers polish and broaden the appeal of their games while also providing some real-world compatibility testing and performance feedback.



Take a look at the Early Access page for more info and a list of the 12 games in the program so far including Arma 3, Prison Architect, and Kerbal Space Program.
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Origin Player Appreciation Sale chops up to 70 percent off EA’s big franchises">Origin Player Appreciation Sale







It isn't often we see the words "Origin" and "sale" next to each other, but this week is the exception: EA is running a week-long Player Appreciation Sale which discounts some pretty hefty games in the publisher's lineup—titans such as Mass Effect 3, Crysis 3, and Battlefield 3.



Here's the full list of games on sale and their prices:



Battlefield 3 Premium—$25

Battlefield 3—$12

Battlefield 3 Premium Edition—$30

Crysis 3—$30

Crysis 3 Digital Deluxe Edition—$40

Crysis 3 Digital Deluxe Upgrade—$10

The Sims 3 Seasons—$20

The Sims 3 University Life—$28

The Sims 3 Supernatural—$15

Dead Space—$6

Dead Space 2—$6

Dead Space 3—$30

Resident Evil 5—$10

Mass Effect 3—$10

The Walking Dead—$10

Batman: Arkham City GOTY Edition—$12

FIFA Soccer 13—$20

Command & Conquer Ultimate Collection—$15

Hitman: Absolution—$15

Saints Row: The Third Full Package—$25

Assassin's Creed 3—$35

Assassin's Creed 3 Deluxe Edition—$56

Darksiders 2—$18

Dead Island GOTY Edition—$10

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City—$25





Normal and special editions on sale? And they're big games? I don't want to spoil this rare opportunity to enjoy a good Origin sale with cynicism, but it's hard not to chortle lightly at the convenient devaluing of nearly half the games EA offered SimCity players for free earlier this week.
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Face Off: Do boss battles have a place in modern games?">face_off_boss







In this week's Face Off debate, Tyler goes left, then right, then left again to dodge Evan's precisely timed barrage of attacks against traditional boss fights in modern games. Are they an outdated trope which should be reserved for arcade-style experiences? Is there some common ground, where boss fights and modern ideas can coexist?



Read the debate below, add your argument in the comments, and jump to the next page for opinions from the community. Tyler, you have the floor:



The Debate

 

Tyler: Why shouldn't games use a tried-and-true design template? Here’s an analogy: you spend a semester learning, then face the ultimate challenge in the final exam. It’s hard. You might have to repeat it again and again to pass, but it makes earning the right to advance to the next level meaningful. My degree would just be a piece of paper if I passed on attendance alone.



Evan: Thanks for comparing bosses to school exams, something universally disliked by mankind.



Tyler: I know, but see, what I’m saying is, because tests and bosses are- OK, fine. I guess I didn’t do myself any favors with that analogy. But are you just going to critique my rhetoric?



Evan: Let’s try this again, with less sarcasm on my part. So you’re saying that without a demanding test punctuating a player’s progression, being told “You won!” or “You advanced to the next area!” by a game isn’t as meaningful. Correct?



Tyler: I’m not saying games need boss fights to create meaningful progression, but the old-school structure still works where it’s used well. Bosses get the big set pieces—the explosions that would just be worn out if they weren't a sparingly-used reward. They can be crazy, huge, monstrous things. They can seem insurmountable at first, and when you turn one to dust, you are the hero. You’re Bruce Willis at the end of Die Hard. Happy trails, Hans.



Evan: I see bosses as an antique trope. They’re a lazy roadblock-in-antagonist’s clothing, and I think designers generally use them out of convenience or tradition, and not because bosses are the best or most creative way of structuring a game. Plenty of modern games have used bosses in a way that feels completely out of place—BioShock’s pathetic end boss was one of the only stains on one of the best games of the era. Ken Levine has admitted this.







Tyler: You’re right, mecha Andrew Ryan was too conventional for BioShock. That was an avoidable error—Wolfenstein 3D wouldn’t have worked if it built to not a fight with mecha Hitler, but BioShock? BioShock should have ignored tradition. That doesn't mean design traditions are universally bad or lazy, though. They give us historical learning to draw from, and that’s valuable.



Iterating on a design only leads to better versions of that design—not in every case, but over time. We’ll only get more and more amazing boss fights, and I’m happy to allow for some failures.



Evan: But designers aren’t iterating, they’re regurgitating. For the most part, bosses are still being implemented in the same form they were 10 and 20 years ago. What would you cite as an example of a great modern boss?



Tyler: Dark Souls, all of them. Sorry, is that game too “antique” for you?



Evan: Actually I’m glad you bring it up, because Dark Souls demonstrates what I’m talking about. The fun I had fighting its bosses relied on difficulty more than interesting design. Dark Souls is saying: “You’re fragile, so let’s make you fight things that have a bunch more HP and do more damage than you. Boss: DESIGNED!”







I don’t find that totally unappealing, but it’s mechanically mundane: pattern recognition, timing, and fighting an enemy with an enormous hit point bar isn’t tried-and-true--it’s overdone. That template originated in in the 2D arcade games of the ‘80s and grew ubiquitous through the console games of the ‘90s. Do we really want games that are just a series of homages to the techniques of the past, or do we want new ideas and new experiences?



Tyler: We want both! And sometimes we want a combination. We can want whatever we want. Alright, that last one isn't a very good argument, but how about this: it’s true that the best examples of boss fights come from arcade-style games and Japanese console series, making a “modern” PC-centric argument more difficult, but even Valve draws from that collective design learning. I thought Portal and Portal 2 climaxed just fine, and those are plenty modern.







Evan: I remember enjoying the ending of both games, but I think I was enjoying the narrative execution more than what I was being asked to do with my mouse and keyboard. Glados and Wheatley are both entertainingly written, and both Portals incorporated original, lyrical songs that provided as a surprising payoff for all your hours of brain work. But as an activity, as a test, I’m not sure if I’d call Portal and Portal 2’s bosses stimulating.



How to beat the end of Portal 2:



Stand behind a pipe as Wheatley fires a bomb at you. This will break open the Incredibly Obvious White Gel Tube.

Put a portal in front of you, and put a portal on a surface that faces where Wheatley’s shields aren’t. Stand there.

While Wheatley is stunned (because it wouldn’t be a boss if they didn’t have a “paralyzed” state), retrieve the cores and then just like, walk up to him.

Repeat.



It does a lot of the work for you--you don’t even have to consider where to place the gel, which was something Portal 2 taught you how to do over and over. It was a narrative success, but if we’re judging bosses by their test-like traits, I’d say it was a pretty easy exam.



Tyler: You’re right, boss battles tend to be exercises in pattern recognition and repetition. They require a binary win/lose state, and winning in one shot would be a bit anticlimactic, so you wear them down in stages. But what about Half-Life 2: Episode 2? That wasn’t a standard pattern-based test, it was a whole level. Conceptually, is that still a “boss?”



Wait. No. I’m unplugging my keyboard and walking away before I turn this into a semantic argument about “what is and isn’t a boss.” I’ll plug it back in after I’ve sat in the corner thinking about what I’ve done for a minute.



Evan: Yeah, I agree that it’s pointless to argue whether Half-Life 2: Episode 2’s incredible sawmill/Strider showdown is or isn't a boss. Mostly I’m interested in encouraging designers to throw out the notion that bosses or “tests” or endings require something like a binary win/lose state, or that they have to replicate something players already understand. I like that Left 4 Dead’s crescendo events make it possible to win and lose simultaneously--you or a teammate might’ve died, but if one person completes the finale it’s considered a success.



Mainly, I don’t want any more Human Revolutions. It was a legitimate tragedy that the reboot of one of the defining, agency-driven games of our time reverted to “let’s put the player in the room with a guy that they stun and then shoot until they kill him.”



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKuLO1WeuTg



Tyler: You’re right again, but I don't agree with a universal conclusion. Yes, “shoot until they die” is out of place there (and no fair using Human Revolution, which had bad boss fights for many reasons), but even so, I want to face the villain, and sometimes I really just want to win the fight. The hero’s journey, and all that! There’s a place for challenging the idea of binary win/lose states, as in L4D, but there’s also a place where John McClane shoots the bad guy, and it’s a place I’m not done visiting.



I don’t want to miss that confrontation because we're just too sophisticated for traditional boss fights. True, there are better ways to handle that confrontation, and that’s the experimentation I want to see.



Evan: “The hero’s journey, and all that” is exactly what I want more designers to deviate from. Not to derail our discussion about bosses, but I’m sick of being everyone’s savior.



Now that i think of it, Far Cry 3 represents one of the recent attempts at iteration on boss design. It’s an open-world game with maybe last year’s best villain, but Ubisoft’s solution for bringing you face to face with Vaas and other big bads was throwing you into these frustrating, (and I hate to use it like it’s inherently a bad word, but) linear, drugged-out hallucination sequences. Why did they do that? Because they wanted the player to have this prolonged encounter with the villain, and a dream sequence creates this context where they can bend the rules and allow the player to shoot the villain a whole bunch of times before they die.



Tyler: You sure have a lot of examples of bad boss fights, but they don’t add up to a rule—and at least Far Cry 3 tried to justify its boss confrontations a bit differently, even if it didn’t succeed.



And on your first point, sure, things can get really interesting when we deviate from archetypal hero narratives. What if I’m just a person in DayZ, on an island with zombies, what do I do? Fascinating, and I can’t wait for more. But why can’t we have both? We don’t have to stop saving the world to also find out what happens when we can’t save the world, or when the final boss is actually Jonathan Blow’s internal emotional struggle.



Evan: It sounds like we’re approaching something that resembles consensus. I think we’re both interested in boss encounters or “difficult trials” that are built on new ideas. I guess part of my criticism stems from the idea that Western game design has won out over Japanese game design over the past 10 or 15 years, and that bosses represent a dated trope that was perpetuated a lot by Japanese games.



I’m especially frustrated when well-funded projects, staffed by dozens of talented people, rely on templates like locking you in a room and throwing a single, durable enemy at you.



Tyler: Have you played Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater? I know, another Japanese console example, but I think The End is a brilliant modern boss fight—it’s a sniper battle, a long back-and-forth which can be won with a kill or non-lethal takedown. That’s the kind of boss fight experimentation we need more of in PC games. We don’t need to do away with them altogether.







Evan: I’m a closet Metal Gear Solid fan, so I’m not going to fight you on this one--The End works for the same reasons HL2: Ep. 2 does--Konami built a whole, intricate level around that character, imbued him with some unpredictable behaviors, and the result was this interestingly-paced jungle hunt that didn’t simply have one solution, yeah. A lot of MGS’ bosses do rely on some tropey pattern-recognition stuff, but he’s one of the best examples of combining “Japanese difficulty” and Western sensibilities. There’s a lot of that in what Kojima does.



Tyler: Yeah, we’re at least within sight of each other now (nice hat, by the way). Neither of us mind having that big confrontation, or even sometimes sticking to narrative tropes, we just want cleverer approaches. That is, we don’t want designers to force traditional boss fights into otherwise non-traditional games.



We want them to design climactic experiences that make sense, and “dodge, shoot, dodge, shoot” can be fun, but it only works in games wholly designed in that arcade style. When you force it into something like BioShock or Deus Ex, it’s a mechanical and narrative let down.



Evan: Ratified.



That's the debate! As always, these debates are exercises meant to reveal alternate view points and cultivate discussion, so continue it in the comments, and jump to the next page for more opinions from the community.











@pcgamer I hated ME3. Without boss battles, the story was basically about fighting mindless enemies 4 cutscenes. And Kai Leng don't count.— Nathan Hansen (@NathanHansenWDN) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer outdated. but also fighting endless waves, survival style is boring too.Simply, keep "boss" fights at random times throughout.YAY— derps | ADLT (@Batou079) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Dark Souls did it well. Bioshock did it well. I like the idea of roaming boss fights with the black knights and big daddies— Nicklaus Lacle (@NLacle) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Like anything else, boss battles have a place if they fit the game. They are often overused and obvious, though.— Ben Price (@bk_price) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Japanese-based games have it on tight, I don't see much from NA titles.— Abdelrahman Al Amiri (@_Bu3ouf_) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Boss battles are a needed mechanic but also needs to be well implemented using the games key features e.g. Zelda style or DMC!— Russell Jones (@RusDJones) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Bosses are essential.The problem is every boss is the same now, people don't put the effort into creating original fights anymore..— Niek Kerssies (@KIPKERssIEs) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer The Boss is the one unique super baddy that gives us the challenge I seek in a game, otherwise its just CoD— Zack McCloud (@ZackLynx3187) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer depends on the game's style. A bit outdated. only not that bad. but don't really need it anymore if the gameplay is strong enough.— Tony J. Vodka (@tonihato) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Yes Boss battles should be the climax of a game - compare Hitler Robot of Doom vs UN victory in Civilization 3— Logun (@Logun0) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer For something like a Strider or Reaper I think yes; otherwise, I feel it's outdated, as games like Mirror's Edge or Far Cry 2 show.— Davehonored (@david_shea) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer No tool in a writer's box is ever obsolete, but just as hammers aren't for fixing electronics, not every game needs a boss battle.— Jacob Dieffenbach (@dieffenbachj) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer @deadspace is doing this right. Minibosses that sometimes prove more intense than the "end boss", it's about nonlinear progres— CosmicD (@CosmicD) March 20, 2013

PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to Face Off: Do boss battles have a place in modern games?">face_off_boss







In this week's Face Off debate, Tyler goes left, then right, then left again to dodge Evan's precisely timed barrage of attacks against traditional boss fights in modern games. Are they an outdated trope which should be reserved for arcade-style experiences? Is there some common ground, where boss fights and modern ideas can coexist?



Read the debate below, add your argument in the comments, and jump to the next page for opinions from the community. Tyler, you have the floor:



The Debate

 

Tyler: Why shouldn't games use a tried-and-true design template? Here’s an analogy: you spend a semester learning, then face the ultimate challenge in the final exam. It’s hard. You might have to repeat it again and again to pass, but it makes earning the right to advance to the next level meaningful. My degree would just be a piece of paper if I passed on attendance alone.



Evan: Thanks for comparing bosses to school exams, something universally disliked by mankind.



Tyler: I know, but see, what I’m saying is, because tests and bosses are- OK, fine. I guess I didn’t do myself any favors with that analogy. But are you just going to critique my rhetoric?



Evan: Let’s try this again, with less sarcasm on my part. So you’re saying that without a demanding test punctuating a player’s progression, being told “You won!” or “You advanced to the next area!” by a game isn’t as meaningful. Correct?



Tyler: I’m not saying games need boss fights to create meaningful progression, but the old-school structure still works where it’s used well. Bosses get the big set pieces—the explosions that would just be worn out if they weren't a sparingly-used reward. They can be crazy, huge, monstrous things. They can seem insurmountable at first, and when you turn one to dust, you are the hero. You’re Bruce Willis at the end of Die Hard. Happy trails, Hans.



Evan: I see bosses as an antique trope. They’re a lazy roadblock-in-antagonist’s clothing, and I think designers generally use them out of convenience or tradition, and not because bosses are the best or most creative way of structuring a game. Plenty of modern games have used bosses in a way that feels completely out of place—BioShock’s pathetic end boss was one of the only stains on one of the best games of the era. Ken Levine has admitted this.







Tyler: You’re right, that was too conventional for BioShock. That was an avoidable error—Wolfenstein 3D wouldn’t have worked if it built to not a fight with mecha Hitler, but BioShock? BioShock should have ignored tradition. That doesn't mean design traditions are universally bad or lazy, though. They give us historical learning to draw from, and that’s valuable.



Iterating on a design only leads to better versions of that design—not in every case, but over time. We’ll only get more and more amazing boss fights, and I’m happy to allow for some failures.



Evan: But designers aren’t iterating, they’re regurgitating. For the most part, bosses are still being implemented in the same form they were 10 and 20 years ago. What would you cite as an example of a great modern boss?



Tyler: Dark Souls, all of them. Sorry, is that game too “antique” for you?



Evan: Actually I’m glad you bring it up, because Dark Souls demonstrates what I’m talking about. The fun I had fighting its bosses relied on difficulty more than interesting design. Dark Souls is saying: “You’re fragile, so let’s make you fight things that have a bunch more HP and do more damage than you. Boss: DESIGNED!”







I don’t find that totally unappealing, but it’s mechanically mundane: pattern recognition, timing, and fighting an enemy with an enormous hit point bar isn’t tried-and-true--it’s overdone. That template originated in the 2D arcade games of the ‘80s and grew ubiquitous through the console games of the ‘90s. Do we really want games that are just a series of homages to the techniques of the past, or do we want new ideas and new experiences?



Tyler: We want both! And sometimes we want a combination. We can want whatever we want. Alright, that last one isn't a very good argument, but how about this: it’s true that the best examples of boss fights come from arcade-style games and Japanese console series, making a “modern” PC-centric argument more difficult, but even Valve draws from that collective design learning. I thought Portal and Portal 2 climaxed just fine, and those are plenty modern.







Evan: I remember enjoying the ending of both games, but I think I was enjoying the narrative execution more than what I was being asked to do with my mouse and keyboard. Glados and Wheatley are both entertainingly written, and both Portals incorporated original, lyrical songs that provided as a surprising payoff for all your hours of brain work. But as an activity, as a test, I’m not sure if I’d call Portal and Portal 2’s bosses stimulating.



How to beat the end of Portal 2:



Stand behind a pipe as Wheatley fires a bomb at you. This will break open the Incredibly Obvious White Gel Tube.

Put a portal in front of you, and put a portal on a surface that faces where Wheatley’s shields aren’t. Stand there.

While Wheatley is stunned (because it wouldn’t be a boss if they didn’t have a “paralyzed” state), retrieve the cores and then just like, walk up to him.

Repeat.



It does a lot of the work for you--you don’t even have to consider where to place the gel, which was something Portal 2 taught you how to do over and over. It was a narrative success, but if we’re judging bosses by their test-like traits, I’d say it was a pretty easy exam.



Tyler: You’re right, boss battles tend to be exercises in pattern recognition and repetition. They require a binary win/lose state, and winning in one shot would be a bit anticlimactic, so you wear them down in stages. But what about Half-Life 2: Episode 2? That wasn’t a standard pattern-based test, it was a whole level. Conceptually, is that still a “boss?”



Wait. No. I’m unplugging my keyboard and walking away before I turn this into a semantic argument about “what is and isn’t a boss.” I’ll plug it back in after I’ve sat in the corner thinking about what I’ve done.



Evan: Yeah, I agree that it’s pointless to argue whether Half-Life 2: Episode 2’s incredible sawmill/Strider showdown is or isn't a boss. Mostly I’m interested in encouraging designers to throw out the notion that bosses or “tests” or endings require something like a binary win/lose state, or that they have to replicate something players already understand. I like that Left 4 Dead’s crescendo events make it possible to win and lose simultaneously--you or a teammate might’ve died, but if one person completes the finale it’s considered a success.



Mainly, I don’t want any more Human Revolutions. It was a legitimate tragedy that the reboot of one of the defining, agency-driven games of our time reverted to “let’s put the player in the room with a guy that they stun and then shoot until they kill him.”



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKuLO1WeuTg



Tyler: You’re right again, but I don't agree with a universal conclusion. Yes, “shoot until they die” is out of place there (and no fair using Human Revolution, which had bad boss fights for many reasons), but even so, I want to face the villain, and sometimes I really just want to win the fight. The hero’s journey, and all that! There’s a place for challenging the idea of binary win/lose states, as in L4D, but there’s also a place where John McClane shoots the bad guy, and it’s a place I’m not done visiting.



I don’t want to miss that confrontation because we're just too sophisticated for traditional boss fights. True, there are better ways to handle that confrontation, and that’s the experimentation I want to see.



Evan: “The hero’s journey, and all that” is exactly what I want more designers to deviate from. Not to derail our discussion about bosses, but I’m sick of being everyone’s savior.



Now that i think of it, Far Cry 3 represents one of the recent attempts at iteration on boss design. It’s an open-world game with maybe last year’s best villain, but Ubisoft’s solution for bringing you face to face with Vaas and other big bads was throwing you into these frustrating, (and I hate to use it like it’s inherently a bad word, but) linear, drugged-out hallucination sequences. Why did they do that? Because they wanted the player to have this prolonged encounter with the villain, and a dream sequence creates this context where they can bend the rules and allow the player to shoot the villain a whole bunch of times before they die.



Tyler: You sure have a lot of examples of bad boss fights, but they don’t add up to a rule—and at least Far Cry 3 tried to justify its boss confrontations a bit differently, even if it didn’t succeed.



And on your first point, sure, things can get really interesting when we deviate from archetypal hero narratives. What if I’m just a person in DayZ, on an island with zombies, what do I do? Fascinating, and I can’t wait for more. But why can’t we have both? We don’t have to stop saving the world to also find out what happens when we can’t save the world, or when the final boss is actually Jonathan Blow’s internal emotional struggle.



Evan: It sounds like we’re approaching something that resembles consensus. I think we’re both interested in boss encounters or “difficult trials” that are built on new ideas. I guess part of my criticism stems from the idea that Western game design has won out over Japanese game design over the past 10 or 15 years, and that bosses represent a dated trope that was perpetuated a lot by Japanese games.



I’m especially frustrated when well-funded projects, staffed by dozens of talented people, rely on templates like locking you in a room and throwing a single, durable enemy at you.



Tyler: Have you played Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater? I know, another Japanese console example, but I think The End is a brilliant modern boss fight—it’s a sniper battle, a long back-and-forth which can be won with a kill or non-lethal takedown. That’s the kind of boss fight experimentation we need more of in PC games. We don’t need to do away with them altogether.







Evan: I’m a closet Metal Gear Solid fan, so I’m not going to fight you on this one--The End works for the same reasons HL2: Ep. 2 does--Konami built a whole, intricate level around that character, imbued him with some unpredictable behaviors, and the result was this interestingly-paced jungle hunt that didn’t simply have one solution, yeah. A lot of MGS’ bosses do rely on some tropey pattern-recognition stuff, but he’s one of the best examples of combining “Japanese difficulty” and Western sensibilities. There’s a lot of that in what Kojima does.



Tyler: Yeah, we’re at least within sight of each other now (nice hat, by the way). Neither of us mind having that big confrontation, or even sometimes sticking to narrative tropes, we just want cleverer approaches. That is, we don’t want designers to force traditional boss fights into otherwise non-traditional games. We want them to design climactic experiences that make sense, and “dodge, shoot, dodge, shoot” can be fun, but it only works in games wholly designed in that arcade style. When you force it into something like BioShock or Deus Ex, it’s a mechanical and narrative let down.



Evan: Ratified.



That's the debate! As always, these debates are exercises meant to reveal alternate view points and cultivate discussion, so continue it in the comments, and jump to the next page for more opinions from the community.











@pcgamer I hated ME3. Without boss battles, the story was basically about fighting mindless enemies 4 cutscenes. And Kai Leng don't count.— Nathan Hansen (@NathanHansenWDN) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer outdated. but also fighting endless waves, survival style is boring too.Simply, keep "boss" fights at random times throughout.YAY— derps | ADLT (@Batou079) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Dark Souls did it well. Bioshock did it well. I like the idea of roaming boss fights with the black knights and big daddies— Nicklaus Lacle (@NLacle) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Like anything else, boss battles have a place if they fit the game. They are often overused and obvious, though.— Ben Price (@bk_price) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Japanese-based games have it on tight, I don't see much from NA titles.— Abdelrahman Al Amiri (@_Bu3ouf_) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Boss battles are a needed mechanic but also needs to be well implemented using the games key features e.g. Zelda style or DMC!— Russell Jones (@RusDJones) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Bosses are essential.The problem is every boss is the same now, people don't put the effort into creating original fights anymore..— Niek Kerssies (@KIPKERssIEs) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer The Boss is the one unique super baddy that gives us the challenge I seek in a game, otherwise its just CoD— Zack McCloud (@ZackLynx3187) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer depends on the game's style. A bit outdated. only not that bad. but don't really need it anymore if the gameplay is strong enough.— Tony J. Vodka (@tonihato) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer Yes Boss battles should be the climax of a game - compare Hitler Robot of Doom vs UN victory in Civilization 3— Logun (@Logun0) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer For something like a Strider or Reaper I think yes; otherwise, I feel it's outdated, as games like Mirror's Edge or Far Cry 2 show.— Davehonored (@david_shea) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer No tool in a writer's box is ever obsolete, but just as hammers aren't for fixing electronics, not every game needs a boss battle.— Jacob Dieffenbach (@dieffenbachj) March 20, 2013





@pcgamer @deadspace is doing this right. Minibosses that sometimes prove more intense than the "end boss", it's about nonlinear progres— CosmicD (@CosmicD) March 20, 2013

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title="Permanent Link to Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods’ first developer diary released, detailed breakdown inside">CrusaderKingsII_The_Old_Gods_image_6







The first developer diary for the upcoming Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods expansion has been released. The Old Gods, set for Q2 2013, will finally add playable pagans to CK2. A new start date of 867 A.D. is also being added, as the pagans don't exactly start on stable footing in the default, 1066 scenario. I spent all morning pouring over the diary and the new screenshots and reading between the lines. What follows is every possible tidbit of information I was able to extract.



Europe, 867 A.D.



We’ve got confirmation of a few things we already knew from around the time of the announcement: The Carolignian Empire is divided among the grandsons of Charlemagne as the HRE, Italy, Francia, and Burgundy (historically, the last should be called Lotharingia). Almost everything North and East of that is divided into chiefdoms and petty kingdoms. England has yet to come into being, with Wessex, East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria, and Viking-held Jorvik creating a divided and hotly-contested realm.



In what will one day be Russia, we can see Holmgarðr and Kónungarðr, the newly-formed Norse realms of Rurik. It’s interesting that they have chosen to divide this land between two rulers. We already know about Rurik in Holmgard, but who his independent, Norse neighbor in Kiev might be, I couldn’t say.



Scandinavia is also, appropriately, quite broken. Other than the petty kingdoms of Jylland, Sælland, Ostlandet, and Sviþjód (the Old Norse name for Sweden), it mostly seems to be divided between single-province chieftains or jarls. It will be interesting to see which among them can forge kingdoms of their own.



Now, here’s where I got really excited…



Holmgard, and beyond! That's where the winds will us guide!



Traversable rivers! One of the greatest advantages of the Viking longship, historically, was its shallow draft—you could load it full of weapons, shields, burly Norsemen, and whatever plunder and slaves they gained on a raid, and it would still sit high enough in the water to glide right over shallow riverbeds and the like. Adding the ability to sail up and downriver means that those Franks in Paris can’t sleep soundly, safe from Viking raids in their inland capital—as the Seine River acts as Pillager Highway 1. In a response on the official forums, the devs also confirmed the existence of portages: strips of land between two rivers over which boats can be carried, and re-deployed. The Vikings were known to make extensive use of these, particularly in reaching Eastern destinations.



There also seems to be a vertical bar at the bottom of the fleet card with an icon depicting gold coins next to it. This probably represents how much plunder your raiders can carry back.



But Viking longboats were unique in this capacity. Surely they wouldn’t let just any ship traverse Europe’s rivers?



New ship type? I think so.



The answer, from what I can tell, is that this will not be the case. As you can see in this screenshot, there are two different ships, both under control of the player (the unit counter is green), with different models, sitting side-by-side. This isn’t a confirmation, but it certainly seems like Old Gods will be adding a second ship type. Previously, in Crusader Kings, a ship was just a ship. If this is the case, the question is raised: Who will have access to river-capable ships? Surely the Norse will. Could this be tied into the new, more hands-on technology system we’ve heard murmurings about?



Also, take a look at the province card. We’ve got stats for “Loot Protected by Fort Level,” “Max Loot,” and “Possible Loot.” So it seems you’ll be able to protect more of your gold from raiders by building up the defenses in your provinces. The interesting thing will be: where does this gold come from? Is it a proportion of the amount in the liege’s treasury? That would seem to suggest that you could pre-empt a raid by spending all of your money, defensively. It’s technically possible that a raid could take a set amount no matter what, potentially putting you in debt. A third possibility is that the defending liege doesn’t actually lose any gold when a raid happens—his incentive to stopping it is just to keep the raiders from generating money and prestige.



I’m also curious to see whether or not raiding will use the regular warscore system, or simply allow you to declare a raid, take your money, and leave. There seems to be a little icon of a crossed torch and axe on some troops and fleets. It could be that these are a new "raider" unit type, separate from the normal armies and fleets. This would also explain the different ship types: One is a raiding fleet that can traverse rivers, and the other is made up of the traditional transports, which can only sail the seas.



Needs moar beard.



The dev diary details that “Playing a pagan chieftain is at least as different as playing a Muslim. Not only that, there are significant differences between the various heathen religions.” We had already heard that Norse leaders will begin to lose Prestige if they remain at peace for too long—meaning that if you want to one day give up a strategy focused on raid and conquest, you’ll either have to convert, or have enough positive Prestige modifiers to offset this. What we didn’t know is the other side of this coin: Unlike all current rulers in CK2, the Norse will not take penalties from their vassals for having troop levies raised.



The devs had also previously teased defensive bonuses for religions like the Romuva in the Baltic, who historically resisted Christianity the longest of any of the European, non-Abrahamic faiths. The diary mentions that they will receive larger garrisons in their homeland, and can be “reformed” to better resist conversion. Whether this reform simply refers to smart, player-driven gameplay, or a more discrete, new system altogether, we can’t yet be sure. It would be very interesting to see a mechanic for centralizing and appointing a religious head for your pagan faith. It’s not remotely historical, but neither is Venice conquering Arabia under an Ethiopian-born warlord. In CK2, stranger things have happened.



It's a Sa-Trap!



Lastly, let’s take a look at the character sheets and the interface. One thing that’s conspicuous by its absence is any kind of unique player resource, like Muslim decadence. Piety is still a factor, but it seems the rumored “Viking points” didn’t make the cut. Both Norse and Zoroastrian characters seem to have a space for Concubines. We’ll have to wait and see how the children of these concubines interact with the current system for bastards, since most pagans weren’t as uptight about that kind of thing as Christians were. It also brings up the issue of what happens to these mistresses if a pagan character converts to a strongly monogamous religion.



There’s also that little asterisk button underneath the spouse portrait. The forums seem to suggest that this is a way to mark a character as special interest, helping you keep an eye on them through notifications in your message log, without fiddling around in context menus. That's a very welcome addition, as I played for about 200 hours before figuring out how to do this.



Check out the official forum thread for more, including revelations about Iceland (it will be colonized, even though there were actually no humans there in 867—the engine doesn’t currently support uninhabited provinces that can later become inhabited), the Magyars, and the Slavic-Norse conflict in Russia. Paradox dev diaries tend to roll out roughly weekly, so check back for more from the PC Gamer Viking Analysis Desk in a quarter moon's turn.
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title="Permanent Link to Antichamber sells 100K copies after two months on Steam">Antichamber







Antichamber tied our brains into painful knots back in January, and its clever puzzles both drained our sanity and pulled a positive review out of our confusion. Since then, the indie head-scratcher has pulled some impressive initial sales—Polygon reports that it has sold over 100,000 copies on Steam.



Creator Alexander Bruce says Antichamber's initial success "blew some people's expectations out of the water" as a predictor of total sales, but he kept his hopes reserved because its complexity made it difficult to market, by which he must have meant its tendency to cause players to karate kick the nearest teddy bear in frustration. (What, only me?)



"I've been burned by expectations before," Bruce tells Polygon. "I did that to myself with all of the competitions I was entering in. Several times, I entered competitions, I had all my hopes and dreams pinned on them, I thought it was a sure shot, and then I missed them. And that sucked. And as I went through later competitions, I made sure I didn't do that. I said back in 2010 that sales are just another competition to me. And if I can win all these other ones, I'm testing the waters for how it sells."



Bruce's gamble evidently worked out, and Antichamber is probably the best chance on Steam to make your brain do a somersault within your skull. You can grab it for $20.
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title="Permanent Link to Saints Row 4 survey asks about possible Collector’s Edition swag">Saints Row 4







Deep Silver wants to include the players its decision-making process for the bonus items packaged in the Collector's Edition of Saints Row 4. In a survey guarded by a pair of friendly-looking penguins, the publisher lists several prospective trinkets for you to rate, and in true Saints fashion, they range from functional to silly to "what in the name of all goodness is that?"



Among the more innocuous-sounding items—a t-shirt, a world map, or an art book—are things you'd more likely find in one of those wood-paneled novelty shops in your local mall. Some choice samples: an auto-tuner, a "presidential briefcase with kinky handcuff and key," a "functional (not deadly!) in-game weapon replica," and the descriptive "ridiculously amazing glass display case with lights."



There's also a "dubstep doomsday button," which I imagine sends the world spiraling into a cataclysmic fate of endless bass drops and curtain hairdos at a single press. That's definitely getting my no—sorry, my "HELL NO"—but have a look at the survey yourself and share a comment on which items dropkick right out at you.



The bigger take-away is that this survey is a good idea—you may remember that Deep Silver's Dead Island Riptide collector's edition didn't go over so well.



Saints Row 4 releases August 20 in America and August 23 everywhere else.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Age of Empires 2 HD won’t have LAN play">AoE2 HD 1







Wah waaaaaaaah. The sad trombone is here to announce that the official Age of Empires II FAQ has revealed that the Steam re-release of the RTS classic won't have LAN play. The single player will be playable in Steam's offline mode, but you'll have to have an internet connection to play multiplayer. It's not all gloomy tidings, though. Read on for a break-down of what we know about the game so far.



The Bad News

As mentioned, no LAN-based multiplayer.

You can't redeem your old AoE2 CD key for a copy of the HD edition. To be fair, we weren't really expecting that.

There are currently no plans for Mac or Linux support.



On the other hand...



The Good News

The new multiplayer features Quick Match matchmaking, with an ELO-like system to pit you against players of similar skill. There won't be any "leagues"—ELO is purely a behind-the-scenes value.

No Games for Windows Live!

Other multiplayer modes, including private/custom games for up to 8 players, and a game lobby browser, will be available for online multiplayer.

Steam Workshop support is fully integrated.

No Games for Windows Live! Did we say that one already?

The mechanics are unchanged from the 1.0c version of the original game.



AoE2 HD is set for an April 9 release. You can read more about it in our announcement post.
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